John Marsden Writing Topic #598

Write a letter to one of your parents. Give it to them or not, as you choose. But say the things you really want to say**

How We Got Here:

Chapter 3: Gwendolyn (Gwen)

Hi Mum,

I hope you like all of our letters, I thought getting all of us to spill our thoughts and feelings and letting you know how much both you and Travis mean to us, would make a great wedding gift. If this fails, we also bought you gifts off the registry :p

None of us are reading each other’s letters before we give them to you, I hope they’re not too sad or mention dad too much. We all love him and miss him, but we all have to move on eventually too. Travis is a great and a lucky man.

To tell you the truth, I’ve always loved being the oldest girl in the family, not just because I somehow managed to have some sort of seniority authority, but because we had the most time together as mother and daughter. I realise how selfish this is of me but I can’t help myself. I’ve always loved how close we were and my hat goes off to you, not only for managing to be the amazing mother of ten children, but for having us, especially Michael, Lucas and I at such young ages. When I was 19, I could never imagine having to take on the responsibility of motherhood, although I’ll be taking it on in the next month or so. Hopefully, not so, I love bubs with every fibre of my being already, but this discomfort is getting a little old, I kind of wish you hadn’t told me that first babies usually arrive late.

No, at 19, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to handle having a baby, especially since at 19, I could barely handle falling in love.

I never dated in high school, like most of us, I wanted to, but I never thought it was a big deal either. When I told my friends about heading off to uni to get a business degree so I could run my own floristry business, the first thing they told me was about the number of guys that would be at uni. In all honesty, I wasn’t really that interested as I had my ‘five year plan’ in place, that being said that was blown to smithereens when Stuart came into my life.

I wasn’t attracted to Stuart at first as I saw him as nothing more than my Principles of Management lecturer. Nevertheless I admired his success as an entrepreneur both in Australia and New Zealand, especially as he was only 11 years older than me. I thought that if he managed to be as successful as he was in only a decade, than I could do the same. I was aware that he was handsome…actually all the girls in the class were, but I was more interested in him professionally. When I told him what my plans were, he guided me on what elective subjects were best and how to map out business plans, to achieve my goal.

It wasn’t until the second semester kicked off that the trouble really started to brew. I ran into him at the Food Co-Op just after my first Principles of Finance class and he asked me if my first semester had inspired development in my ‘five year plan.’ We ended up talking about it, my business dreams, his business dreams and subsequent successes and fails for the next three hours. We were both a little disappointed when we realised the time and that the Food Co-Op were not so subtly telling us to leave, as they were switching off the lights and closing up. The disappointment soon disappeared when I said we could continue it over dinner…he hesitated…that’s when the penny dropped for both of us. I quickly tried to rescind the offer and tried to hurry off with some dignity.

When I ran into him again a couple days later on campus, he wanted to talk to me, I tried to apologise and he wouldn’t accept it. He did admit his growing feelings for me but that as a lecturer, nothing could happen between us without it being seen as unethical. However he also told me that since I wasn’t one of his current students and if we kept it quiet for a while, then we could give things a try. I understood why we had to keep things a secret, but I didn’t want to, nor did I like it, but I did keep it all a secret.

Unfortunately as we both know, it didn’t stay a secret for long. Silly me, I thought I could trust my dorm mate and best friend! I’m glad social media wasn’t around back then, otherwise our humiliation would have been immortalised. The Uni didn’t take long to fire Stuart and I know he was a little shattered when some of his investors followed suit and he lost one of his businesses. I gave him the opportunity to walk away, a clean break, he didn’t need an 18 year old ruining his life. He nearly fainted at that suggestion, right then and there he grabbed me, kissed me, told me he loved me, and to never make the suggestion again.

I know I told you, everyone, all of this before—both when it came out and over the years since, but I’m taking you on a walk down memory lane because without your support, Stuart and I wouldn’t be where we are now. Your fierce support enabled me to continue my education and graduate with a high distinction, I couldn’t believe my ears during all of the meetings with the Vice Chancellor, especially when you threatened to go the media. While I was glad that threat ended it all, it also made my blood boil that it proved the Uni only cared about their reputation and not about student wellbeing, to the point that I really wanted to drop out. I almost did, until Stuart reminded me that the possibility of every other uni rejecting me because of the scandal would be high.

When Stuart proposed to me after five amazing months, I was ecstatic and there was no question as to what my response would be, however when he did propose another thought dragged my ecstasy down….this would bring the scandal back up to the surface. It didn’t help that instead of being happy for me, Michael was pissed off and you had to fake being happy for me to try and hide your worry (yes I know you were faking it). I mean I know you wanted me to be happy, but I also know you thought the dust had settled and I was bringing it back up again.

Luckily we pulled off our low-key intimate wedding, just a year after we met. The one thing that really stood out to me, to both of us, was that dad never got to walk me down the aisle. How do you think dad would have reacted to our relationship? I always thought that he would have not just put his foot down at the Vice Chancellor’s for me, but smashed through the whole Uni floor. I’m sorry to mention dad, I really tried not to, because I know that the majority of us probably will, but I couldn’t help myself. It always makes me sad that all of us girls miss out on our dad walking us down the aisle and the father-daughter dance. However it was such an honour to have you walk down with me—my mother, my biggest ally. Did you think that I would be the first to get married?

It’s a shame that our honeymoon wasn’t so low-key with Christi’s car accident. I’m sorry I was so crazy and perhaps a little selfish at the time, but it had just been such a long year. I was just as afraid as losing her as everyone else.

I know things didn’t get any easier with the decision Stuart and I made to move to Auckland once Christi was out of hospital. How does it feel as a mother to have your child move out of home? I mean I know I was already out of home, but out of the country is a different kettle of fish. Bubs hasn’t even born yet and I want her to stay with me forever.

I know it wasn’t easy for Travis to try and win us all over, but I always liked him, loved him and I always will. I don’t know if the others will agree with me, but you deserved and needed to be happy. Although I didn’t really need a father figure, Michael tried but I reminded him that as I’m only two years younger than him, I wasn’t going to let him boss me around, Travis was great with the stepfatherly advice.

I never told you this but one day he found me bawling my eyes out in my car just outside of the house. You were working late, but I opened the door for him and he spent an hour sitting next to me, listening to my complaints on how the uni was treating me and how much it was stressing Stuart and I out. He told me to hold my head up high, keep going and not to give up on my relationship, that I had found true love and to hold on it, just like he was trying to with you. Only a year into the relationship and having to deal with the dramas of ten children and he already knew you were ‘The One’ without any doubt. It was that moment that I realised how important Travis was…is to our family.

I’m not sure if I show my appreciation for you enough, but I want to say that I love you so much for being my mum, my unofficial photographer at my wedding (can you believe it’s been eleven years!?) and shop opening, and for always being my biggest ally. If I can be half as good a mother as you have been to me, that would be a dream and I can’t wait for you to become a grandmother, I know you can’t either.

I hope you and Travis like my floral arrangements, this job is the most important one I’ll ever do.


I’ll see you at the end of the aisle.

Love Always,

Gwen xxoo.




**Reference: Marsden J 1998, Everything I Know About Writing, Pan Macmillan, Australia.

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